Tonight I continued my exploration of new and interesting Irish whiskeys by taking part in another fine "Tweet Tasting" hosted by the Celtic Whiskey Club. The sample for the evening was a new release from the Celtic Whiskey Shop's "Celtic Cask" range - The Celtic Cask Deich, or Celtic Cask Ten for the non Gaelic speakers out there, and those of you who may have previously seen my reviews of the Celtic Cask Sé (7), or the Celtic Cask Ocht (8), will know that I usually hold these whiskeys in high regard as they always seem to deliver on quality and taste.
The previous reviews of the Sé and Ocht covered whiskeys that had originally come from the Bushmills distillery but for tonight's offering we were being taken a bit further down the east coast of Ireland to Cooley, Co. Louth.
The Celtic Cask Deich is a double distilled, peated, single malt that has been matured for 15 years. The first 11 years of it's maturation were spent, traditionally, in an ex-bourbon barrel whilst the last 4 years were spent in a red wine barrel from the Domain Anges winery, which is located in the Rhone Valley, France.
As you can guess, with the Celtic Cask Deich being peated, this single malt could have been Connemara in another life but thankfully the Celtic Whiskey Shop got their hands on this cask and have given it an interesting twist with the red wine finish.
The original spirit was casked on 19th March 1999, and was bottled on 23rd February 2015, so in fact this isn't a kick in the arse off being a 16 year old.
Bottled at 46% ABV, and being non-chill filtered, this whiskey currently retails on the Celtic Whiskey Shop website for £107.65.
Another thing you may have picked on over my blog updates is that Connemara, as a whiskey, is usually one that I enjoy without ever being bowled over by. I've always found it to be a tiny little bit thin and the 22 year old, whilst undoubtedly well made, just didn't "do it" for me.
Naturally then, when I received this sample in the post, I was excited to see if the single cask style, combined with a well managed finish, would mean I had finally found the Connemara I had been looking for.
Onto my notes:
Nose - Once poured this takes a second or two to settle in the glass and when it does there's a serious battle going on between the peated spirit and the red wine cask influence. A good battle though it has to be said. The peat comes through for starters and is light and gentle. Burnt embers and dry wood smoke come across with a slight chalky, mineral note. Not sure if that's the peat or the cask. All the time this peat influence is distinctly coated in the red fruits which are rich and juicy. Ripe strawberry and blackcurrant juice. A slight minty / menthol note appears along with dark chocolate orange and some nice oak vanilla. With time the peat develops but in the end the red wine cask wins with some red apple appearing as well.
Palate - This is more red wine cask dominant, than the nose, with sweet red fruits, more strawberry and a variety of currants. The dry peat / wood smoke just lurks in the background enough to remind you it's there but it's definitely taking a back seat now. There's some spice on the taste, presumably from the French oak red wine cask, and again there's the menthol which is also a little like eucalyptus now. Initially this is most definitely sweet and juicy but the oak takes over and brings a nice dryness to the mouth.
Finish - Medium in length with stewed orange leading into crunchy red apple which is lip smacking and juicy. Right at the end, when the fruit aftertaste subsides, the dry smoke returns for one last hurrah.
Overall this is honestly the best Irish peated whiskey I have tasted. Whilst I admittedly have not tried the entire Connemara range, nor any other independent bottlings, I have tried the recent 22 year old and for me the Celtic Cask Deich is by far the better dram.
I initially thought, when I first poured this into the glass, that it was a little bit muddled, and unbalanced, with no sense of identity, as the two distinct flavours fought to be noticed, but as the seconds ticked on my fears were put to bed as I found the whiskey becoming extremely well integrated.....it is clear this finish has been handled to near perfection.
The red fruits flavours, from the red wine cask, marry nicely with the Cooley peat spirit, which I have sometimes found to be a little on the weak side, and both get a good chance to have their say.
Yet again the Celtic Whiskey Shop have outdone themselves in selecting a great cask of whiskey and putting their own spin on it. When it comes to red wine finishes they seem to hit the nail on the head every time and I only hope they continue to do this for years to come, and I get to sample as many as I can.
What's Gaelic for 100?
Until next time,